I follow the news and find myself (and Jonathan) watching more political TV shows and news programs than ever before. For some reason we need to follow the daily political madness in the US – and suffer while we do. We did not spend as much time in front of the TV (or computer) screen and follow the political drama in the US when we lived there. I watch satire shows like The Stephen Colbert Show or Alec Baldwin’s sketches because it is gives me a short release to laugh and try to view the Trump White House as a play or drama instead of reality. But in the end I don’t find it very helpful in trying to relieve my Trump-angst. I think we are watching shows like The Rachel Maddow Show, Meet the Press , Washington Week in Review and Morning Joe because we are waiting for an end to this horrific political spectacle or at least some sort of upheaval or sign of that the Trump-era will be over SOON!
But while we wait for some sort of change (or revolution) children are being shot in schools (the US has had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrial nations combined), babies are kept in cages at the border, the environment is suffering as Trump is privatizing national property and has given new mineral and oil and gas leasing opportunities on protected land, eased drilling regulations, and rolled back habitat protections for endangered species, appointed polluters to run the Environmental Protection Agency, created a healthcare disaster (both globally and nationally) and we have to watch when a crazy president daily attempts to stress-test the american democratic system.
Why are americans not out on the streets in reaction to the Trump? In The Atlantic Masha Gessen writes how artists (and liberals in general) reacted after Trump was elected president and sang about their own passiveness and inability to effectively rage against the political machine.
In the days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Brooklyn punk rocker Jeff Rosenstock retreated to the Catskill Mountains to do what liberals everywhere were doing—mourn—and what many artists were doing, create work about what had just happened. The resulting songs, released on New Year’s Day 2018, bore titles such as “Powerlessness,” “All This Useless Energy,” “Beating My Head Against a Wall,” and “Yr Throat” (as in, “What’s the point of having a voice / when it gets stuck inside your throat?”). In jittery, epic-scale shout-alongs, he described his neighbors taking shots and moaning, “There’s nothing left we can do right now.” He told of joining a demonstration that shut down an interstate, and then realizing that “after a couple of days / the fire that I thought would burn it down was gone.” He reported withdrawing from regular life to channel his discontent into action, but finding it impossible to do so…..
If pop artists new social awareness are to convert post-Trump stress disorder into something that looks and sounds like grit, they might draw a lesson from those who’ve discovered the power of taking a longer and wider view of the era’s struggles, both personal and collective…..
In our case, stepping outside the lie means refusing—stubbornly, consistently, incrementally—to lend credence to the opposite of politics, the opposite of diplomacy, and the opposite of sanity. That would require thinking, reading, and speaking critically: not treating an outburst as though it were politics, a tantrum as though it were diplomacy, and a delusion as though it were aspiration. The good news is that this is not an entirely impossible task.
When researching public activism on the Internet I find to my surprise a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll that shows that one in five Americans have protested in the streets or participated in political rallies since the beginning of 2016. Of those, 19 percent said they had never before joined a march or a political gathering. According to the poll thirty percent approve of the president and 70 percent disapprove. Many said they plan to be more involved politically this year. The poll also offers a snapshot of how public activism has changed in the 50 years. During the Vietnam War era college students were protesting but today many activists are older, white, well-educated and wealthy, the findings show.
The original title of the Woody Guthrie song we now call This Land is Your Land was God bless America. A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1.
- There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
- Sign was painted, it said private property;
- But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
- This land was made for you and me.
Woodyguthrie.org has another version:
- As I went walking I saw a sign there
- And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
- But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
- That side was made for you and me.
It also has a verse:
- Nobody living can ever stop me,
- As I go walking that freedom highway;
- Nobody living can ever make me turn back
- This land was made for you and me.
- In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
- By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
- As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
- Is this land made for you and me?
I agree with Mark Twain “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”